Market research: Ralph Lauren in China
See also : Hermès in China
Ralph Lauren: Late arrival in China
Ralph Lauren Corporation is an upscale American lifestyle company and fashion retailer founded by American designer Ralph Lauren. The company focuses on high-end clothes for men and women. Widely recognized for its Polo Ralph Lauren flagship label, RL Corporation also manages several other brands. For world luxury brands, China is a very important market due to its potential and growth. However, unlike other brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel, which has long set their exclusive stores in many cities in China, Ralph Lauren just recently entered to the Chinese market in 2011. Its CEO Roger Farah busily traveled from Beijing to Shanghai and other cities in China to find the right locations to open their stores.
The Chinese element in the brand
In its 2011 fall collection, Ralph Lauren incorporated many Chinese elements into its designs, including the color China red, emerald green and the materials such as jade, Chinese embroidery, Qi-pao and a dragon robe. As fashion authorities pointed out, by the end of 2020 half of the world luxury brands will operate in some scale in China. It is impossible to ignore the emerging purchasing power of the growing upper class in China and the potential it serves to Western Luxury brands.
Ralph Lauren’s prospects in China: Focus on the middle class
According to CEO Roger Farah, choosing the right location for the Ralph Lauren stores in China is very important. On one hand, Ralph Lauren should seriously consider opening some stores in second and third tier cities. Most of the best locations in major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are already occupied by other luxury brands and these second and third tier cities are rapidly developing in China. On the other hand, most consumers living in these second and third tier cities will just ignore the brand if they have not heard of it before. Even if Ralph Lauren opens a huge flagship store with big investment in these cities, it may struggle to gain a loyal customer base due to its late entry into the Chinese market. In addition, Ralph Lauren is pushing through its e-commerce strategies as well in order to raise brand popularity. According to the luxury analyst Luca Solca in Sanford Bernstein, Ralph Lauren in China is a late player, but its unique focus on the middle class will lead to its success if it executes its strategies properly. Right now the two problems facing Ralph Lauren are: to make the Chinese aware that it is a very high fashion brand and to construct a Chinese team full of people who are familiar with the Chinese market.